Christmas has always felt to me more like a natural occurrence than a magical holiday, unlike how most other people feel about the holiday season. It’s not really an occasion for exuberant joy like others describe it.
But one aspect of this time of year that always brings out the childish part of me is watching the snow fall and coat the ground. There’s something amazing about going to bed with the earth completely unchanged, only to wake up the next morning to see a blanket of white covering the familiar contours from the night before.
For much of my life, snow always brought the hope of canceled school if it came early enough. Waiting in suspense for my school district’s name to scroll across the television tuned to the local news station, followed by the word “Closed,” filled me with a giddiness that only a bonus day of freedom could bring.
While I don’t have many specific Christmas memories, I have plenty connected with snow – from snowball fights in the front yard with my brother, to downhill sledding on whatever object we could find that would slide; from snow angel competitions with my friends, to my first and only time going snowboarding.
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Watching the snow fall always brings these time capsules rushing to the front of my mind.
None are more poignant to me now than memories of taking my dog, Jack, out into the snow.
Jack, an Australian shepherd-blue heeler mix, has been around for most of my snowy Christmas vacations, and that meant taking him outside and watching him put his paw prints into the blank, frozen canvas.
After a couple days of this, my front yard would look as if I owned the canine version of Jackson Pollock, his abstract-expressionist prints crisscrossing and arching around the snow-covered trees and bushes.
When I look back now, Jack’s paw prints carry a different meaning for me. I remember tracing each set to their origin, seeing where Jack had chosen to enter the snow each time and where he had chosen to roll around in it.
He didn’t always come at the snow in the same way, but he never went backwards.
Jack is more than 13 years old now and doesn’t really have the energy to roll in the snow if and when it comes.
But I’m keeping up his legacy by leaving my own pattern of overlapping, seemingly haphazard prints on the landscape.
As a college graduate, I stand before the frozen canvas of life as a young man in his early 20s, with thousands of possible angles from which I can enter.
None are incorrect paths, nor is there is one definitively clear route that I should follow. But with enough steps, I will have created my own unique path through adulthood.
It might be pursuing graduate school, throwing myself full throttle into the work force or chasing a long-held passion.
Just like Jack, however, the one thing I can’t do is go backwards.
Michael Free Jr. is a student who grew up in Milton and studied writing at the University of Washington Tacoma. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email him at email@example.com.